Tuesday, October 14, 2014

19th Century G & J W Hawksley Powder Flask

G & J W Hawksley advert from right around 1948.
 Collectors of things are an odd breed. We often covet, acquire, admire, research, display, and search all of our lives for various things that can fill the sometimes obsessive need to arrange and bring order to something we will own.

But unlike so many of the items that are out there that if taken care of, can last many generations, and with luck become heirlooms or family history at least for a generation or two,... we have but a lifetime to live, and as the old saying goes, you can't take it with you.

The flask is copper with brass trim. It is calibrated for 2 & 1/4, 2 & 1/2, 2 & 3/4, and 3 dram loads. It is also  marked with the makers name on the flask nozzle.

I managed to come across this powder flask by way of an older collector who was into items from the Revolutionary to American Civil War. Primarily the types of items that would have been used by soldiers on the battle field.

I actually didn't have a lot of money when this offer was put on the table. I remember being at James Country Mercantile in Liberty, Missouri when I met this fellow who was in the process of trying to sell off much of his collection. I don't know why he picked me out of the people that were around, but I thought at the time that maybe it was because I was the youngest one. Later, I found out that was one of the reasons.

The main reason though was he was in the midst of retiring, and wanted to travel with his wife. So, they had both agreed to let many of the possessions and accumulations of years of marriage and life spent together, go. But, as I came to find out, they were being pretty cautious. He had no real way of ensuring this, but he made me swear on my honor that I would not turn around and attempt to resell this flask for solely monetary gain. In plain fact, I got this bit of history, a flask that had been manufactured in Sheffield, England, that had might very well have seen usage during the American Civil War, for a generous song. You see, he did not really care about the money so much in this case as he wanted it to go to another collector. Someone that would take care of it, tell it's story, and, in his words "Give history a chance to last a little longer in a world full of decay and shiny allures". So we agreed to meet up at later that weekend for me to get it from him, as I hadn't planned on making any other purchases aside from a bayonet that day. (Sometimes I type sentences like that, and I laugh at myself. That's not an item often coming up in conversation these days.)

Sometimes you meet people once or twice in life, and the time you spend with them may pass as quickly as a shooting star in the timeline of your life, but some of those people can leave an indelible mark on you. You might not remember names, and time may dull other details, but in that moment you never forget, because it's attached to a time, place, or thing.

I met up with him at the farmer's market downtown here in KC. When he handed it to me, he shook my hand, and held the flask for a moment, and then slowly handed it over to me, his eyes locked in on mine. He only reminded me of what he'd said at James County, and said, "Your word." To which I replied, "You have it."

The one deep indention that is on it, located on the bottom. And a stamp on the nozzle area that I have yet to identify...

Currently, I've been researching this flask when I have spare time. It's in pretty good condition, and I've found that it's value sits somewhere between $150 to $300. 

For people looking into war era memorabilia, this is one of the medium low price point sort of items that do exist in pretty vast numbers, varieties, and conditions to fit any pocket book. They also tend to run on the smaller side and make great displays in shadow boxes or on a book case.

Care of course should be taken, as many of them may still have black powder residue (or more) inside, and can be a volatile and unexpected surprise to suffer an injury from if not treated with respect and some common sense.

Be wary when you start collecting as there is a good sized market for reproductions of these (and many other items like this because of the Living History and Reenactment groups), and if you don't really know what you are looking at, you can stand to be fooled and parted with your hard earned money.

To aid you in this, there is the now out of print, and very rare, reference book "The Powder Flask Book" by Ray Riling once published by R & R Books. It's 450 page hard bound book, filled with around 1,600 illustrations and information that would rival the Tower of London's. The book as you can see via the Amazon link fetches a price not too far from the cost of a powder flask, sitting at just around $120 (which is actually not a bad price, I found it recently at a book seller for $500).

So, there is the first item I chose to share with you all. I hope you enjoyed it, and maybe learned a bit, and perhaps will share this with your friends. I'll keep inserting labels below at the end of posts for category usage and quick searching, as believe me, this blog is about to become very, very large.

I also decided to adopt a general stat review of whatever I post on here, at the end of each of these entries. My hope is that this can become a reference guide to some degree for people that are interested, and as a bit of a personal record for myself.

Thanks for reading! It was a bit of a dreary rainy day today here in Missouri, which reminded me of the day I'd gotten this flask. That's why I chose to start with this one. Take care of the things in your life, promote the well being of history, never forget the Library of Alexandria, and I'll see you next time!

-Mario, the Rogue Hobbyist  

Stats Rating/Information
Item 19th Century Powder Flask
Made by G & J W Hawksley
Rarity Uncommon - High amount of varieties and eras can be found.
Classification Antique - 150 years old
Condition Used/Good - Small dent, original patina but worn.
Procured Liberty/KCMO area
Worth $150 to $300
Investment -undisclosed-
Further Research "The Powder Flask Book" by Ray Riling
Trivia & Fun Facts Powder flasks were made of lacquered wood, coconut shells, bone, leather, ivory, steel, brass, copper, practically anything that could be hollowed out or reformed into a carrying device for securing the volatile nature of gunpowder.

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